By Ilyas Mohamed
Main Idea: I was able to relate to Henry’s battle against loneliness and his journey to his identity (Resilience)
As I was reading through this semi-biographical novel, the characterization of Henry Charles Bukowski reminisced me of my first month in high school. I will never forget the First Day. Time flies, it seems it was yesterday. High school seemed dreadful. Just think about it, most American movies depict High-School as hell. Strict teachers, piles of homework, agonizing bells and, on top of that, bullying was, of course, the biggest threat. Would you be among the popular, athletics, toughs, nerds or crackheads? Or would you simply be an outcast? Knowing all of this and continually being bombarded with negative images, it was clear that high school was daunting. To start off, my elementary school and high school were an hour distance. Therefore, nobody came along with me. My memory isn’t top notch, however, I can still visualize this day like. It was the end of August. The sun was striking the ground intensely and the air was humid. My parents were occupied and I had to figure out how to get there. I bought my first metro pass. I looked at the map ; I was confused ; I didn’t know where I was heading. I took the subway and find my way. Now, what should I do? I was in front of a broad, crowded street and I didn’t know if I had to walk to my right or left. So, I decided to walk to my left. I wandered through the streets pivoting my head in all directions seeking a sign of an institution. Finally, I asked an elder woman if she knew where was my destination. Turns out I was walking in the wrong direction – I had to walk back. As I was strolling the streets, I saw a cluster of teens that were wearing the same blue uniform. This gave me hope and I decided to follow them. As I was walking behind them, I felt frail and powerless. They were imposing, well-build teenagers. My hope gradually vanished and was transformed into fear. As I got there, I was sweating, breathless and exhausted. I was late. The security glared at me and yelled, “This isn’t Kindergarten, you need to adjust yourself or you’ll get scattered into pieces”. My eyes dilated – I was petrified. I got to my first class. It was math. I knocked the door. The teacher was welcoming and kind. He grinned and didn’t utter any words. Everyone was looking into my eyes. I sought for a place to settle. I ambled to the rear of the classroom. There was this Asian girl sitting at my right. I caught a glimpse into her eyes. Suddenly, I heard her mutter, “If you look at me again, I’ll beat the shit out of you”. The first hour and I were already in a quandary. I didn’t look at her anymore, I was scared of a girl. I was experiencing the bullying phenomenon that those movies described. As the day progressed, I isolated myself and watched the other kids giggling and enjoying their first day. They were gathering into groups. Everyone associated with the people from their elementary school. I didn’t have anybody. Nevertheless, the calendar was turning and I was, gradually, accommodating to this lifestyle. I scrambled through the rough moment and climbed over loneliness. Just like Hank, I was trying to project a tough image of myself. All of my actions were mere pretense. I nosedived into a character that didn’t correlate with my own self. I tried being in different sports team and different groups. In a way, my first year in high school snatched my identity. It took me two years to find the right key that fits into the keyhole. To sum up, Henry is experiencing the same thing and that’s how I can relate to him. He is a young, innocent man in a quest for his identity. Similar to my old self, Henry is in a maze and he is trying to figure out the way to escape the imposing walls. Despite all the obstacle that suppress his growth, Henry dodges all the darts that fire in his direction. He found what he likes in life; writing.
Paragraph one: His parents ; the culprits
In the beginning of this novel, Henry is characterized as a naïve, innocent kid. Usually, kids idolize their parents and become how their parents raised them. In one of the first scene, Henry’s aunt remarks how quiet he is and his father utters, “That’s the way we want him” (22). Starting from there, we see how Henry is already confined. In plus, Henry’s father is strict, violent rough and brutal. Perhaps, Mr. Bukowski went through many traumas in his young years and now he is venting his anger into his son; “It was as if my father was a machine, swinging that strop. There was the feeling of being in a tomb” (70). His father seems heartless. He believes that acting this way would shape his son into a better man and would promise him a bright, wealthy future. Henry says, “I was not allowed to play with other children. ‘They are bad children,’ said my father, ‘their parents are poor.’ ‘Yes,’ agreed my mother. My parents wanted to be rich so they imagined themselves rich” (27). This shows an interesting aspect of Henry’s parents. These monsters are preoccupied on how society depict them. This contrast demonstrates that Henry’s father is an impostor. He tries to project an intimidating image, but he’s weak. Society and conventions are stronger than him. Also, we see Henry is lonely since he is young. “They seemed very strange, they laughed and talked and seemed happy. I didn’t like them […] Kindergarten was mostly white air” (27). He was a spectator in life. He continually describes life as white air which demonstrates his lack of interest in anything. When he started school, Hank “didn’t have any friends at school, didn’t want any” (29). Loneliness took over most of his life and his parents were the culprits. Henry says, “Outside, through the rear screen I could see my father’s roses growing. […]. I felt that even the sun belonged to my father, that I had no right to it because it was shining upon my father’s house. I was like his roses, something that belonged to him and not to me … “(40). The fear that his father has put on him suppress his mental growth. As long he lived in this house, freedom wasn’t in his rights. Henry’s fear was like a balloon that is continually being pumped. As the pressure increases, the balloon could not bear this and explodes. As a result, this triggered a cascade of events leading to Henry’s disobedience toward his father and being kicked out. The ideologies that Henry was raised with pushed him to be a rebel. He stemmed into a reckless, ruthless and pessimist character. Henry says, “All a guy needed was a chance. Somebody was always controlling who got a chance and who didn’t” (62). His parent never gave him room for individualism, creativity and finding himself. As a result, he became careless “I had no interests […] I had no idea how I was going to escape. At least the others had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that I didn’t understand. Maybe I was lacking. It was possible. I often felt inferior. I just wanted to get away from them. But there was no place to go. Suicide?” (174). He was so depressed that suicide seemed a solution. Until he discovers writing, Henry had to deal with many things. To sum up, Henry needed to battle against his own parent in order to find his identity.